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Why Facebook’s “seen” notifications make social media even *more* addictive


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Photo: Stocksy/Studio Firma

Oh, read receipts: Love them or hate them, there’s no denying that waiting for one to appear is really, really addictive. And that’s not good news for your mental health.

They first started popping up on your iPhone when Apple released the iMessage app in 2011, but now that little “read” or “seen” notification is everywhere: on Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, and even Instagram DMs. At first they might seem like a good thing—you’ll know when someone read your message, after all—but it also makes it easier to obsess over a response. And that’s exactly what social media platforms want, according to a new interview in Dazed.

“The aim is to trigger often negative emotions linked to compulsive behavior so as to keep people checking their social media page or using an app.” —Tony D. Sampson, PhD

“The aim is to trigger often negative emotions linked to compulsive behavior so as to keep people checking their social media page or using an app, not only to see if we have a response but to see if our message has even been read or not,” Tony D. Sampson, PhD, digital media culture and communication expert, says.

Basically, those read receipts have you refreshing your feeds 24/7—and since studies have shown excess time on social media can lead to anxiety, depression, and just being totally overwhelmed in general, that little feature can easily mess with your head. And since with many apps (iMessage being a notable exception) there’s no way to turn it off, there’s really no way to avoid it.

The only thing you really can do? Try to stop caring so much. If someone responds, they respond—and if they don’t, that’s cool, too.

Try these 5 tips for staying authentic on social media. Or, find out how Chrissy Teigen and John Legend keep their relationship with social media healthy.